Category Archives: Site review

Happy 5th Birthday!

A fifth birthday!
A fifth birthday!

It’s true… as you get older, time seems to accelerate. It feels like only a few weeks ago I was writing last year’s Happy Birthday post.

I started this blog because I found myself telling several people the same piece of news and opinion. I took their advice and created this blog.

Last year I said that there had been “a step change in traffic, with pretty much double the level of traffic as two years’ ago”. This year, traffic almost doubled again, with almost 20,000 sessions on the site over the last year.

Continue reading Happy 5th Birthday!

Quarterly Digital Innovation Report Q3 2014

We’ve just released the latest version of our Quarterly Marketplace Innovation report, showcasing some of the most innovative projects across industries.

Many organisations focus on competitors within their own industry, but often the most innovative ideas are blossoming in other sectors. The quarterly report aims to lower the fences between different industries.

My personal favourites from the last quarter are the Fan Boost in Formula E racing  and Google Flights, which has made my recent travels so much easier and probably a little cheaper.

If you would like us to present these projects to your organisation, to send you a paper version or to produce a more targeted version of this report, please contact me.

21st century support

Bradbox WordPress error
A frustrating way to finish a weekend

If you’d visited this blog over the weekend, you’d have received a WordPress error message. I only discovered it on Sunday evening when I checked the site for feedback. Google Analytics revealed the outage started from about 1am on Saturday morning.

I tried fixing the problem. I tried everything I could to fix it. One limitation I faced was that I have been brought up on Microsoft technologies (.net and SQL Server) and not php and MySQL – the technology that this blog runs on.

Frustrated, I went to sleep on Sunday night knowing the site was still unavailable.

After work on Monday I returned home and tried a few more things. I reached out to a WordPress guru I know. He offered some advice but I’d already tried everything suggested.

And then I came across one of the new types of one to one support websites where specific experts help other users.

I’ve always been interested in this area of consumer support. Graduating in Computer Science a couple(!!) of years ago earned me the natural honour of fixing anything within my extended family that had electricity flowing through it. Since my degree I’ve been asked to ‘programme’ the clocks in various cars, fix a microwave, tune in a TV and set up speakers – my university course appears to have been highly practical from an external perspective.

When family or friends call for help with real computer issues such as domain names, broken hard drive, email configuration, or Google Apps, I wonder who people call if they don’t have access to a friend or family member with a technical computer background.

So there I was on Monday evening, urgently wanting my site fixed, on Wizpert.com. I thought I’d give it a try. The sign up process was fast, and within a few seconds I was talking to a friendly chap from Romania (yes… I wondered whether there was an Endava link too, but no there wasn’t) who was one of their WordPress experts. At first we were chatting on Wizpert’s chat screen, and then I offered for him to remote on to my screen using Chrome Remote Desktop.

Naturally I was sceptical, and thought at some stage he might try to install some spyware somewhere, or change some passwords for access at a later stage. I watched carefully as he moved around my virtual server.

Just under two hours later he had fixed the issue and after thoroughly testing the solution I was a happier man.

The issue wasn’t straightforward, and required two types of solutions. We were still puzzled at the end about how the problem had started on the Saturday night at 1am – our assumption is that one of the WordPress components ‘auto-updated’ and broke the MySQL installation.

Not everyone uses Amazon Mayday for support
Not everyone uses Amazon Mayday for support

Wizpert is one of a number of new support models arising in the peer Internet age such as Amazon have with the Mayday button.

On Wizpert, payment to the expert is discretionary.

If you do decide to pay, users buy ‘coins’ using a credit card or PayPal, and then send these coins to the expert who helped. There are recommendations during the chat process “Most users who this expert helped gave x coins to thank them”.

I doubt these support models will be used for enterprise clients, but as devices and applications become more complex – and certainly more essential to our daily lives, end-user support will transform from the current model of phoning anyone you know with a Computer Science degree, to being able to ask someone sitting a few thousand miles away for some help and advice.

A British review of US sports and media offerings

Possibly the easiest signup form, presented by Fox Soccer
Possibly the easiest web signup form, implemented by Fox Soccer

This week I’ve been working from our newest sales office in Atlanta, USA. It’s been a great week, and we’ve met some really interesting (and super friendly) people and companies.

During the visit, I spent some time looking at the consumer media offerings over here. The US has often been ahead of the UK market when it comes to television, but the UK leads the world in some web offerings – such as grocery shopping and BBC’s iPlayer, so I wanted to see what the US has to offer. And it’s difficult to do this from the UK because so many sites are geo-blocked. Continue reading A British review of US sports and media offerings

11 ways to monetise large digital audiences

The Mail Online homepage - it's ain't pretty, but it attracts a huge audience
The Mail Online homepage – it ain’t pretty, but it attracts a huge audience

The UK’s Mail Online newspaper website now has 189.5 million monthly unique visitors, that’s two and a half times the population of the UK.

Working on a month of 22 weekdays plus 4 weekends, the Daily Mail sells 52.1 million newspapers, read by 129.4 million people. Whilst it’s difficult to compare those readership figures with the website’s monthly unique visitors, there’s probably the same level of inaccuracy in both figures, which can make them ballpark comparable.

Back to the website for a moment – how can a monthly readership of almost 190 million users be turned into revenue?

Continue reading 11 ways to monetise large digital audiences

New Google Maps review: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Bert Lance popularised the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in 1977 and two of the biggest IT companies in the World today could do with some reminding.

New Google Maps
New Google Maps – looks nice, but unusable

In September 2012, Apple considered that Google’s Android was such a competitor to the iPhone since the first iPhone appeared, that it was bizarre to continue using Google’s mapping application. So Apple wrote their own mapping application, which has received some severe criticism, and has caused some of the senior management to leave the company.

Google Maps is excellent, and they saw the opportunity to release an [excellent] iOS map app, which I use on my iPhone.

Google Maps, browser version is also excellent. The Streetview is great for becoming familiar with your destination before starting the journey, and the routing is excellent too, whether walking, driving or using public transport.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, said Lance.

Google sent me an invite a fortnight ago to look at the new Maps website, apparently written from the ground up (no pun intended) and I eagerly accepted the invite.

It looks lovely. But it’s awful to use. For instance, the map doesn’t show you where you are. The familiar right-click has disappeared, so you have to type source and destination addresses rather than just right-click on either of them and press ‘Directions to/from here’. Right click now shows a point of interest (usually a business) near where you right clicked, which I haven’t yet found a single practical use for.

Streetview now takes over the page with a tiny map, and you can’t drag the ‘person icon’ to see a different area on the map. To get back to map mode from Streetview used to be obvious – there was a traditional close button, now it’s an almost hidden, size 8 font hyperlink.

Google Maps is a big step backwards. As a client used to say every time he moved up a Windows version, “I’ve just downgraded to the latest version”.

Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report

I can’t believe it’s been two and a half years since I last wrote about the Akamai State of the Internet Report.

The latest Akamai State of the Internet report has been released and as usual it’s interesting reading. The Internet continues to grow at a fast rate, both in terms of the sheer number of users and connectivity speeds. Unfortunately the side effects of security also continue to increase.

Akamai is a huge cache network of servers that make it faster for end users to access websites, and usually cheaper for the website company.

This means that Akamai stores the pages that we visit on a server closer to our computer. So when you visit say, www.domain.com, you might go to an Akamai server to see the content rather than domain.com’s server.

Akamai serves approximately two trillion requests for Web content every day. In the second quarter of 2012, over 665 million devices with an IP address, from 242 countries/regions, connected to Akamai.

Bearing in mind that in some cases multiple individuals may be represented by a single IPv4 address (for instance everyone in your home will probably share a single IP address, and most companies work on this model too), so this is likely to equal around a billion users.

Some highlights from this quarter’s report are below.

Security

The top 3 countries with originating security attacks are (in order) China, USA and Turkey. These 3 account for 36% of the Internet’s security attacks.

Speed

The global average connection speed grew 13% to 3.0 Mbps, and the global average peak connection speed grew 19% to 16.1 Mbps

In the second quarter of 2012, average connection speeds on known mobile network providers ranged from a high of 7.5 Mbps down to 340 kbps. Average peak connection speeds for the quarter ranged from 44.4 Mbps down to 2.5 Mbps.

Mobile

For users of  mobile devices across all networks (Wifi and the various cellular data networks), Apple’s Mobile Safari accounts for approximately 60% of requests, indicating that significantly more users of iOS devices use these devices on Wi-Fi networks — heavily driven by iPad and iTouch usage.

Mobile_browsers_across_all_networks

If you look at pure cellular data, the most common web browser is Android Webkit, which indicates a significant number of iOS users only use Wifi.

Mobile_browsers

Amount of users (IP addresses)

  1. USA (142m IP addresses)
  2. China (93m)
  3. Japan (39m)
    UK is in 6th place with 26.5m
    Brazil grew the fastest – an extra 12% to 21.5m IPs

 

The full Akamai State of the Internet report can be found here.

 

How to get help with online marketing for small businesses

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Last week I was invited to a networking event hosted by Rob Tyson of The Tyson Report and Triberr.

As regular readers will know, I am interested in small UK businesses, mainly because my grandfather started a small shop in Camberwell shortly after the war, which my dad looked after until retiring some five years ago.

I’m acutely aware that small businesses need as much help they can get, and in some ways the Internet has created a level playing field, but small businesses struggle with the complexities of the Internet and it takes too much time to research the necessary material.

Step forward Rob Tyson. Rob has created a subscription based website which helps small businesses understand the nuances of Web marketing.

His website is based on a freemium model – a lot of content is free, the first month costs £1 and thereafter it’s £19 a month.

I spoke to Rob at the event, not for as long as I’d like because there were lots of others there, and he seems a genuine guy who wants to help small businesses. I asked him what his long term plans are, and whether he would help large companies, and he said that he wants to focus just on smaller companies at the moment – usually less than a dozen people, running a business as well as a website.

At the networking event was a wedding photographer who has reduced his marketing spend (at one point he was spending 50% of his revenue on marketing) through Rob and a charming lady who is setting up a London tour guide business and needs help promoting it online.

I’ve read Rob’s blog, and it’s straight up, direct content. There’s no fluff, and something to take away from every post.

If you’re a small business, I recommend following Rob on Twitter and taking a look at his site.

 

New BBC Homepage review

Bbc

So, the new BBC Homepage has now been rolled out for all users as the default landing page for bbc.co.uk.

The BBC have a huge usability challenge. The site covers everything from the most popular news website in the UK to CBeebies, from the excellent iPlayer to detailed microsites on most scientific explorations.

There’s a huge amount of content on the site, and sections of the site aimed at toddlers who can’t read to silver surfers.

In my opinion, the new homepage addresses the usability challenge very well. I like the 3 tabs along the bottom as different ways to browse content (Most Popular, What’s On and Explore).

Bbc_toolbar

The new toolbar at the top is very Mac/ Google-esque, providing the most common links throughout the entire BBC web estate. At the moment you can see the style of the toolbar changes across this site, and I expect this to become common over the coming months.

Finally, there’s the scrolling features area at the top of the site. Very iPhone-ey (no pun intended). Great on a touch screen but with a mouse it’s quite fiddly. It’s the same as the new version of Chrome, with the ‘Apps’ and the ‘Most Visited’ sliding navigation. Great on a phone, poor with a mouse.

Chrome

Next year will see an explosion of touch screen PCs once Windows 8 is released. Earlier this year I considered buying a touch screen PC for home, but human hands (and especially my children’s hands) are too greasy to consider using on a flat surface. We bought a standard PC in the end and it still annoys me how many fingerprints appear on the [non-touch] screen.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a few people, one of them with an iPad. One of the guys turned to the iPad user and said “You use the letters ‘e’, ‘u’ and ‘s’ a lot, judging by the state of your screen”. The iPad user replied with “Interesting you say that, because my boss’ name is Sue”.

Back to desktop touch screens – I don’t think we’re ready for touch screen’s yet. It’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist – I’m faster typing and navigating with a mouse and keyboard than colleagues with an iPad.

In summary, I like the design of the new BBC homepage. It solves a huge challenge really well, by consolidating a huge site into a number of easy to use components and promoting some of them nicely. Now I need to use it with clean hands and a touch screen.